Student problems with swipe access stem from data errors

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October 9, 2017

10:57 PM

Life at the College of William and Mary is characterized by change. Construction on campus brings demolition and new buildings each semester. New student organizations are created and classes are added. Hidden behind this evolution lies a champion of collegiate consistency: the Tribe Card.

The Tribe Card plays a role in various components of daily life at the College, including meal plans, laundry services, professional identification and access to residential and academic buildings. Last month, however, the Tribe Card’s tried and trusted capabilities appeared to change overnight.

Sept. 9, multiple students reported that their swipe access was malfunctioning, leaving them unable to swipe into academic buildings and residence halls during normal access hours. It was unclear to those students if these difficulties were the result of alterations to campus-wide swipe access policies or a mechanical glitch.

Assistant Vice President for Campus Living Maggie Evans said that mechanical failure caused the swipe access difficulties. Evans said that issues with residential swipe access occurred due to data being misread by the university’s system and are not indicative of changes to existing university guidelines.

The malfunctions disproportionately impacted returning upperclassman students.

“Returning students [accessing] halls they don’t live in [were affected],” Evans said in an email.

“Returning students [accessing] halls they don’t live in [were affected],” Evans said in an email.

The glitches were resolved by workers in the College’s Information Technology department later that day, allowing students to access residence halls without limitation.

Independent of last month’s technical difficulties, Evans said that university policies regarding swipe access remain unchanged. According to the College’s guidelines, any student with a valid ID has access to all residential buildings from 7 a.m. to 12 a.m. From 12 a.m. to 7 a.m., access is limited to students residing in specific residence halls. Evans said that this policy is intended to ensure the safety and security of all students.

Most academic buildings across campus remain open between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and may be accessed without official identification. Beginning this semester, students are free to utilize facilities in several academic buildings on a 24/7-basis. Several instructional buildings, including Tyler, Ewell, Jones and Morton Halls, are now accessible after 10 p.m. and during the weekend.

Vice President for Student Affairs Ginger Ambler ’88 Ph.D. ’06 publicized these policy changes last month in an email sent to the College’s student population.

“Student access to residence halls remains the same as in previous years,” Ambler said in the statement.

“Student access to residence halls remains the same as in previous years,” Ambler said in the statement.

Gregg Shipp, the director of operations and maintenance, has helped in overseeing and publicizing the implementation of these new policies.

“The changes to the access control policy were distributed [in emails last month],” Shipp said in an email.

Current university guidelines stipulate that each residence hall may revise swipe access rules at its discretion, in accordance with the College’s policy of self-determination in halls. Some residential building councils have revised their swipe access hours in accordance with football games and other campus-wide social events.

Emilee Cardin ’20, a resident assistant in Monroe Hall, said she appreciates the College’s policy of self-determination with swipe access.

“[Our hall’s] changing of the hours was ideally to represent the wishes of the community,” Cardin said.

Cardin said that Monroe Hall’s enforcement of firmer swipe access policies during football games is vital in securing the property and safety of its residences, as its proximity to Walter J. Zable Stadium makes it a potential target for vandalism.

“It’s likely that things would be damaged [if we allowed unrestricted access],” Cardin said.

Some academic departments are beginning to modify established guidelines of their own accord. Adair Hall, for example, has imposed a curfew during the work week. Now, students must use their Tribe Card to enter the building after 6 p.m. Monday through Friday according to posting on the building..

Further deliberations over official swipe access will continue to evolve over the course of the year.

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  • Ethan Brown